By Carl Stagner
More than 100 million Christians around the world face persecution on a daily basis.* Facing the possibility of intimidation, torture, or death at church each week isn’t something many in the West experience, but it’s reality for far too many believers across the globe. Church of God congregations are encouraged to focus their prayers on Sunday, November 1 or Sunday, November 8 in observance of the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
Turn on the television or browse the headlines on the Internet, and you’ll quickly note the distress of our world today. Much of what you hear—and what you never hear reported—has great impact on believers. From the Syrian refugee crisis to war in Ukraine, to the flooding in the Philippines, ambassadors for Christ are there on the front lines—helping the hurting, boldly proclaiming Christ, and persevering under sometimes unspeakable conditions. Time and time again, these Christians in dangerous locations around the world ask not for prayers to protect them, but to strengthen their resolve. The spirit of the persecuted church around the world astounds and inspires.
“The Scriptures remind us time and time again that all trouble, hardship, or trial—even persecution—is an opportunity for God to get glory,” Ken and Keli Oldham explain. These pastors to Egypt continue: “So while we would prefer the removal or lessening of persecution for the sake of our brothers and sisters around the world, or even for ourselves, God has a plan. Let us then pray for one another to be bold, courageous, filled with grace and the spirit of perseverance, so that we may demonstrate the truth and peace of God. Then whether the trouble be great or small, whether the persecution be severe or subtle, may God gain the glory within and through us all.”
Ryan Chapman, coordinator of the National Prayer Ministry for the Church of God, reminds us how important prayer is for all of us, and especially for the persecuted church. He points to Romans 8:28 as a key verse when considering prayer for the persecuted church: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). Ryan explains that there are two critical assumptions in this passage of Scripture. “One is that God has the capacity to powerfully work in the most difficult of situations, and on a global scale. The other is that he is at work all the time to bring to completion what he wills, though we cannot always recognize the progress of it in the moment. So we do not want to fall short in partnering with him through enduring prayer.”
Prayer, like our faith, is proven in our deeds. Patrick and Jamie Nachtigall, regional coordinators for Global Strategy to Europe and the Middle East, recognize this truth. “The persecuted church is the defining issue of our time,” Patrick explains. “The Church of God must be involved in putting pressure on governments that persecute. Religious freedom is in decline as many nations in the world respond to the openness of globalization by clamping down on religious groups. In some parts of the world, Christian persecution is very aggressive and overt (Iraq, North Korea, Pakistan). In other countries, the government does all it can to make life difficult for evangelical churches to function (India, Morocco, Russia). Both forms of persecution are a serious threats. Write letters on behalf of those in prison, support ministries and Christian businesses in closed countries, pray for Christians in persecuted nations, and support missionaries working in closed nations who are assisting the persecuted church.”
*For more information about the persecuted church and about the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, visit www.idop.org.
To learn more about Global Strategy, visit www.chogglobal.org.